March 5, 2024

Mourning ends. Analysis begins.

Should Nelson Mandela have received special treatment?

Now that the time of mourning for Madiba – South Africa’s hero of liberation from apartheid, Nelson Mandela – is over, it’s time for bioethical inquiry. In the Practical Ethics blog, Dominic Wilkinson questions whether Mandela should have received the expensive and invasive medical care which presumably kept him alive for an extra six months or so.

“It may be that the costs of his exceptional treatment did not divert resources away from others with greater health need. However, in general we should be cautious about providing exceptional treatment to exceptional individuals. There are questions about who decides on exceptional status and how much additional treatment they can access. Political leaders certainly deserve appropriate compensation for their contribution to a country.

“But we might think that they, in particular, should not be able to access more than the best available public health care. (Such a policy would help to guarantee political support for health care for the elderly…) We might also wonder whether Mandela, with his passionate concern about poverty and inequality in the developing world, would have desired the expensive treatment that he ended up receiving.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
Nelson Mandela